A dream wedding enacted
The celestial wedding of Sri Andal and Sri Rangamannar took place at Srivilliputtur on March 18. T. A. SRINIVASAN captures glimpses of the divine event.
ACCORDING TO legend, when Andal's foster father, Periyazhwar, the then Pandya king in Madurai and others who accompanied him, took the young girl in a palanquin to Srirangam for giving Her away in marriage to Lord Ranganatha and when they were passing through the Cauvery She disappeared from their midst and was later found along with the Lord in the Srirangam temple. The Lord asked them to go back to Srivilliputtur assuring them that He would come there and accept the hand of Andal in the marriage ceremony to be performed there on the Panguni Uthiram day. Ever since the celestial wedding of Andal with Rangamannar is being celebrated not only in Srivilliputtur, but also in the Madurai Koodal Azhagar temple, Azhagarkoil Kallazhagar temple, Thirumohur Kalamega Perumal temple and in almost all holy places. This year's Panguni Uthira Thirukkalyanam took place on March 18.
Two important events took place when Andal was being taken to Srirangam from Srivilliputtur, according to folk belief. One was Her night halt at the Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal Temple in Tallakulam, Madurai, and Her taking bath in a tank there. The tank hence came to be known as "Thirumukkulam." Incidentally, the big tank in Srivilliputtur where Andal bathed before performing "Pavai Nonbu" in the Tamil month of Margazhi is known as Thirumukkulam.
When Andal reached Azhagarkoil, whose Lord has been hailed by Her as "Vallal Maalirunjolai Manaalanar", She was said to have refused to leave the place as She was greatly enchanted by the beauty of the idol. After a lot of cajoling by Periyazhwar and others, She accompanied them on their onward journey. The Utsava idol of Andal in Azhagarkoil is therefore found in sitting posture unlike in other places, including Srivilliputtur, where She is worshipped in standing posture. On March 18, during the celestial wedding of Andal with Rangamannar, which is celebrated only in the night of the Panguni Uthiram day unlike in other places where it is celebrated during day, Lord Rangamannar, with the sceptre in His hand and a pearl umbrella over His head, left the temple in the evening on "Kasi Yathirai" accompanied by a small band of devotees. He went round the four Nachiar Mada Streets and when He reached the East Mada Street in front of the temple, Periyazhwar received Him and requested Him not to go to Kasi but accept the hand of his foster daughter in marriage.
The Lord accepted the offer and Periyazhwar washed His feet as is the custom in Hindu marriage functions. He later reached the marriage hall in the temple, which is known as "Muthudaithamam Niraithazhntha Pandal" or to be short "Muthu Pandal" as described by Andal in Her song. He was adorned with a pearl crown and necklaces.
The temple has been built over the house in which Periyazhwar and Andal lived in times of yore and each portion of it has been named as described by Andal in Her poems, for instance, "Muthu Pandal" and "Maadhavi Pandal".
Even the "Kannadi Kinaru" or the well whose water was crystal clear in those days (though it has gone dry now), in which Andal used to see Her image after adorning Herself with the garlands made by Periyazhwar for being presented to Lord Vatapatrasayee, is found inside the temple.
Andal, in a bridal attire and the golden parrot in Her left hand (She is adorned with a parrot made of leaves and flowers on other days), accompanied by a big retinue of devotees, later left the temple and went round all important streets before reaching the Muthu Pandal.
The Lord came out and garlands were exchanged by priests, representing them, carrying them over their heads and walking to and fro between the Lord and Andal to the accompaniment of lilting Nadaswaram music.
As soon as this was over "Oonjal" and "Nalangu" songs were recited. Then the two idols were taken to the Kalyana Mandapam with Periyazhwar's idol kept to their left. The Kalyana Mandapam's ceiling is covered with the paintings depicting the Ramayana although they have faded now due to long years of neglect. The important feature about these paintings is that in the Sita Kalyanam scene one can find the images of Andal instead of Sita and Rangamannar instead of Rama.
All the preliminary Vedic rites held in connection with marriage, as described by Andal in Her poems, were performed by Sri Vijaya Bhaskara Bhattar, priest of the Andal temple. Andal has described all the rites, as She dreamt of them, except the tying of Thirumangalyam, perhaps as She wanted it to be done actually by the Lord.
Both the idols of Andal and Rangamannar were bedecked with all the jewels gifted by the rulers in the past. After "Sri Suktam" was recited to sanctify the Thirumangalyam, Andal was adorned with it.
Then other rites like "Lajwanthi" and "Sesha Homam" were performed. In the night, the Lord mounted on Yaanai Vaahanam and Andal in a flower palanquin were taken round the main streets in "Pattinapravesam" and the idols reached the temple in the early hours of the next day.
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